Irked by what she perceived as fake happiness displayed across social networks via a multitude of cheerful profile pictures, Laurel Nakadate set out on January 1, 2010 to chronicle her sadness in the course of the upcoming year. On every day of 2010, no matter where she was or what she was doing, Nakadate reserved time in her day to induce tears and document herself crying. Organized chronologically from north to south, 365 photographs line the gallery walls as a diaristic record of this durational performance (a third of these photographs are also currently on view in a significantly larger format at PS1, as part of Nakadate’s ten-year career survey that is up through August 8, 2011). The images show Nakadate – usually posing for the camera – alone in various locations with tears running down her face and often contorted facial and bodily stances. The viewer is thus invited to “intrude” on this delicate process. This series follows the footsteps of seminal performance projects by On Kawara and Tehching Hsieh, who also implemented a rigid daily routine for a pre-determined time, and chronicled each day by simple means.
Although the 8 ½” x 11” photographs reveal where Nakadate traveled in the past year, what she wore (often, very little), and the décor of her NYC apartment—they disclose nothing of what prompted her to cry at that moment. From various interviews, we learn that when personal anguish was not enough, she used an array of methods to instigate crying – from sad songs to childhood memories. While she comments on how individuals carefully sculpt their virtual identities to appear continuously joyous, this series appears too as an intentional shaping of her outward persona. Thus, rather than learning about human nature, we discover subjective details of Nakadate’s life.
Much has been lamented about Nakadate’s break-through videos for which she would go to the houses of single male strangers and dance for them. Though the loneliness she managed to capture in those works appears more poignant than in 365 Days—both bodies of work express her willingness to take risks. While in the earlier work she put her body at harm’s way, in this new series she takes an emotional risk. She is no longer looking to other isolated individuals to capture a sense of solitude – instead she searches for it in herself. Her vulnerability is more palpable, and ultimately becomes the subject of the series. In this respect, Nakadate’s work has matured considerably.
The exhibition includes two new short videos that are also centered on a single individual. Lost Party Guest (2011) focuses on a dressed-up and blindfolded Nakadate navigating her way around a low-lit historic room (filmed at the Park Avenue Armory). Appearing as the last participant of a party game of hide-and-seek, we witness her crawling and feeling her way through the space, with a spotlight constantly following her. Here, Nakadate blocks out our voyeuristic gaze, aware of her intrinsic state of vulnerability. Poland (2011) is a highly grainy, color-blotched video filmed on Nakadate’s iPod, which follows an American starlet from behind as she takes her seat at the front row of an awards show in Krakow. With its near-abstraction, this piece provides a visual relief from the intense surrounding works. Seen together, the videos and photographs capture a sense of isolation – whether fabricated, physical, or emotional – and serve as an indication of our culture of identities mediated by pop culture.
Images: From the series 365 Days: A Catalogue of Tears, 2011, January 16, 2010; Still from Poland, 2011, 3:53 minutes; From the series 365 Days: A Catalogue of Tears, May 11, 2011. Courtesy Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York.